By Lawani Mikairu
LAGOS— Aviation stakeholders have suggested partial closure of the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to enable single aisle aircraft, that is medium range planes, to use the runway while construction and repairs are going on.
The airport runway is approximately 3-9 kilometres and the stakeholders suggest that half of the runway could be opened for small and medium-sized planes to land and take off while repair work is going on in the other section of the runway.
A senior official of Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, who pleaded anonymity, said the association had not taken a position on the closure and he had also not been mandated to speak since the association would be attending a stakeholders forum called by government tomorrow in Abuja.
According to him, medium size planes which both the domestic and international airlines operate can successfully land and take off on the half length of the Abuja airport.
He also said with half of the runway opened for operation, airlines which choose to go to Kaduna to land could be assisted by other airlines, which have smaller aircraft to fly their passengers to Abuja instead of transporting them by road from Kaduna to Abuja as is currently being suggested by the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
Captain Adamu Isa, who is also very familiar with the Abuja airport shared the views of the AON official.
According to him, the length of the runways of most of the domestic airports across the country are not up to half of the Abuja Airport runway. So, if there is partial closure, “airlines can still operate in and out of the airport except the foreign airlines, which may opt to go to Kaduna to land because they have only wide bodied aircraft.”
Isa added that airline operators should be allowed to decide where they will land, whether Abuja or Kaduna.
“The options should be provided by the government by opening half of the Abuja runway. Government should not forget the security concern in Kaduna, the southern part and should not compound this by diverting all flights to the place. Kidnapping has been rife on the Kaduna-Abuja high way,” he added.
The Abuja Airport is approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of Abuja, and has an international and a domestic terminal that share its single runway. The Abuja non-directional beacon : AG) is 1.7 nautical miles (3.1 km) off the threshold of Runway 22. The Abuja VOR-DME (Ident: ABC) is 1.3 nautical miles (2.4 km) off the same runway.
Bids were invited for the construction of a second runway and the contract was awarded to Julius Berger Construction Company but was revoked due to the high cost. The Federal Government approved fresh bids for the construction of the second runway.
According to Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Aviation Sector Summary Reports, the number of passengers movements into the airport in 2011 was 4.216 million passengers. In 2012, there was 3.6 million passengers movement and in 2013, 3.9 million passengers used the airport. While in 2014, 4.16 million passengers were processed at the airport and 2015 had 4.34 million passengers passed through the Abuja Airport.